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Edition One Feature
  • Edition One Beechworth's Granite Cave
  • Author Nick Stock
  • Photographer James Morgan

The granite cellar at Giaconda Vineyard is the latest project of exceptional winemaker, Rick Kinzbrunner. Nick Stock travels to Beechworth in search of chardonnay, a granite cave and a vision for the future of Giaconda.

Rick Kinzbrunner has an enigmatic presence. Tall, slim and considered, he also has a reputation as a bit of a recluse. It may seem unsurprising then that his latest construct at his Giaconda property in Victoria’s Beechworth, happens to be a cave.

“My goal was always to grow the wine in granite soil,” Kinzbrunner says of his newest cellar, drilled and blasted into the granite rock at Giaconda. For him, it is the last link in the chain of a terroir to which he is deeply endeared: vines grow in granite, their grapes fermented and matured in a granite cellar.

Underground, the physical conditions are vastly better for wine maturation than the previous above ground facilities. Naturally cooled, the air is humid and alcohol is more likely to lower over time in this high humidity than concentrate in the arid, evaporative environment up on the surface.

Kinzbrunner calculates that there will be an average nett loss of around 0.5% in finished alcohol in wines made in the cave rather than a gain of around 0.5% in above ground conditions. This means he is able to deliver full, rich and powerful chardonnay at levels of around 13% alcohol by volume, instead of the previous norm that fell around 14% and without employing mech-anical climate control.

“I’ve stuck to my guns, refined my style and the wines I’m making now are the result. It’s the traditional stuff that’s probably closer to what they were doing hundreds of years ago rather than what many people are doing now.” RK

He has seen instant results in terms of refining wine style and quality. The first wine to emerge having been totally vinified inside the granite cave is the 2010 Giaconda Chardonnay and if this wine is anything to go by, the assessment is accurate. 

Kinzbrunner is not prone to exaggeration and as one of Australia’s most capable and experienced winemakers; he has little need to stretch the truth. “It’s the first wine I’ve made that I’ve been truly happy with,” he says, “the culmination of everything I’ve tried to do and wanted to achieve.” The 2010 chardonnay is easily the best rendition of his signature white wine to date and the 2011 is developing handsomely in its shadow.

The inspiration for the cave project stems from Kinzbrunner’s time working in California. However, the impetus to embark on its construction is born of his regard for the granite terroir at Giaconda and the desire to chase down the very best and most unique quality in the wines grown and made there. His focus in terms of winemaking is both narrowing and deepening.

“It’s a philosophy of doing less and doing it better ... there’s enough cheaper wine out there already.” RK

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